Cape Town - The Springbok Sevens travel to Dubai on Sunday, eyeing another good start at one of their favourite hunting grounds where the new and bigger HSBC Sevens World Series kicks off 4 and 5 December.
South Africa are the defending Dubai champions, a venue where they have managed to reach the previous two Cup Finals. This coming Friday they face Samoa (07h44, SA time), Russia (10h44) and then Scotland (17h12) in a tricky Pool B fixtures list.
Last December, the Springbok Sevens followed up their excellent win in Dubai with another title triumph at their home tournament in Port Elizabeth, and the South Africans will be eager for a similar start to the season.
The Dubai Sevens kick-off an extended ten tournament World Series which will culminate in the Rio Olympics in August next year, when the shortened version of the game will feature for the first time. Dubai will be followed by the South African leg of the series in Cape Town a week later.
Powell reckons teams will change their usual approach over the next few months. “This is such an important season and I am sure we will see some different strategies from the teams.” He added: “The importance of the season will bring added pressure, and we will also have to adopt to the way teams change their tactics. However, it is important for us to concentrate on our job and not to look too far ahead.” Powell expects momentum to be a key factor, especially in the first two tournaments: “Every team will try and gain early momentum in Dubai, so that they have something to build when we all arrive in Cape Town. We prepared well and are looking forward to the season.”
The coach has named Springboks Francois Hougaard and Juan de Jongh in a strong 12-man squad for the first two World Series outings.
Hougaard has played in 35 Tests for the Springboks and recently joined the Sevens squad on a one-year contract. He is set to make his World Series debut in Dubai, while DHL Western Province centre and skipper, De Jongh (14 Tests), return to the Springbok Sevens fold for the first time since making his first and only appearance for the side in Wellington in 2008.
The Springbok Sevens squad for the opening World Series tournaments in Dubai and Cape Town are (SARU contracted unless specified, number of World Series tournaments in brackets):
1. Chris Dry (44)
2. Philip Snyman (30)
3. Francois Hougaard (0)
4. Kwagga Smith (15)
5. Werner Kok (18)
6. Kyle Brown (48 – captain)
7. Cheslin Kolbe (DHL Western Province, 8)
8. Ryno Benjamin (Toyota Free State Cheetahs, 29)
9. Justin Geduld (18)
10. Cecil Afrika (38)
11. Seabelo Senatla (19)
12. Juan de Jongh (DHL Western Province, 1)